After several days of open competition between Stephen McGee, Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill, A&M…
McGee could be big surprise of Big 12
McGee, the only player with true experience at the position could have whined about it, he could have made a big deal about having to compete for the position that he's held for the last two seasons.
But he didn't—which is one of the reasons that he'll likely be the starter again in 2008.
"I think it's been like that every year," McGee said. "Everyone has to earn their position and I think you want that as a player. You want to be pushed to be the best player you can possibly be."
And McGee, who earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2007 and was one of just three quarterbacks in the nation to throw for 2,300 yards and rush for 875 or more last year, has done just that.
He finished the regular season last year with an impressive performance against No. 11 Texas at Kyle Field, tossing three touchdowns and completing 25-of-36 pass attempts for 362 yards, leading the Aggies to their second consecutive win over the arch rival Longhorns.
That McGee is the one that fans have seen at practice since Sherman took over this spring—not the "athletic quarterback" that runs for 100 yards per game on the option.
But that's no surprise to McGee, who slung the ball around quite well during his high school career, racking up 8,256 passing yards and 101 touchdown passes (3A state record). As a senior at Burnet High School, McGee completed 196-of-313 passes (62.6 percent) with 3,579 yards and 47 touchdowns—with just three interceptions.
"I know what I can do and what I've done," said McGee, who didn't exactly plan on running the option coming out of high school. "I always wanted to do whatever Coach (Dennis Franchione) asked me to do. It's not about me. If I have to run the ball, if I've got to hand the ball off or throw it every down, whatever it takes to be successful. I just want to go out there and do that. You're not always in a perfect situation for me or whatever, I understand that, but my focus is always what can the team use from me."
Much to the delight of McGee, the new coaching staff plans on getting a lot more out of his arm in 2008 with a new pro-style offense that has McGee excited.
"It's an offense I've always wanted to be in," McGee said. "In high school we were more of a spread team and I always liked being able to hand the ball off and drop back from underneath center and this is an offense where we'll be able to do that. There's a lot more play action and running plays from under center. I love what we're able to do in this offense because there's a lot of versatility and different components."
In addition to his arm, the new coaching staff is also excited about what McGee brings to the table between the ears.
A&M quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley says that McGee's maturity and experience have been invaluable to the other quarterbacks, and even the new coaching staff.
"Experience is having been in a situation where you've seen a coverage and you know how to react to the coverage," Rossley said. "That's definitely a thing in his favor. He's seen a lot of things. Stephen is great to share his experiences of what type of coverages and some of it is even different to me. College coverages are somewhat different from NFL coverages and we can rely on his experience a little bit."
If the Aggies are able to provide McGee (or any quarterback for that matter) with the tools he needs to succeed this season at offensive line and wide receiver, he could become one of the biggest stories in the Big 12.
Beyond that, Rossley believes the sky is the limit for McGee.
"I think he can play in the NFL," he said. "The best game he played last year was the Texas game and it was the game they used him more as a passer. He's accurate, he's got a great arm, he's got quick feet and he's really smart."
And while McGee has not been officially named as starting quarterback, he's definitely got a leg up on the competition as the Aggies approach the halfway mark of fall practice. Yet McGee—the ultimate competitor—is treating every day as an audition of sorts.
"At the end of the day, I can only do what I can control," McGee said. "Coach (Sherman) is the head coach and decides who plays, but I can control that attitude, effort and leadership that I exhibit out there."
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